WHITEFIELD — Regional School Unit 12 has scheduled two public hearings on a proposal to change the formula for sharing costs among the district’s eight towns.

The first hearing is scheduled for 7 p.m. Wednesday in the Wiscasset High School Library, and the second is 7 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 25, at Windsor School.

The new formula would shift the funding burden away from the coastal towns of Alna, Westport Island and Wiscasset and onto less property-rich towns in the northern part of the school district.

Palermo, Somerville and Windsor would be the hardest hit; each town’s contribution would rise by more than 25 percent over the course of five years.

Chelsea would benefit from the change, while Whitefield would be only be slightly affected.

Following the public hearings, the school board will consider the proposal at their Feb. 9 meeting. If the board approves a final proposal, it will go to a district-wide referendum by March 31.

Jerry Nault, chairman of the board’s Finance Committee, said the district’s consolidation plan doesn’t specify what type of vote is needed to change the cost allocation. They decided it should be a simple majority in the overall vote; not all towns will be required to approve it.

School board Chairwoman Hilary Holm said the issue could be contentious.

“The issue we see right now with this proposal is that, quote, ‘There are winners and losers’ because we’re changing the proportions,” she said. “And nobody likes change, especially when it digs deeper into their pockets.”

The consolidation plan that created RSU 12 said the district had to evaluate the cost sharing plan by its third year. The board started the process early in response to a petition from Alna residents.

“We’re trying to do it because we think the new formula will be, quote, ‘fairer’ because it’s not just based on historical spending by the municipalities,” Holm said. “It does have a student factor in it, which is what the towns that are most unhappy with the current situation said — you’ve got to do it based on student count.”

The new formula would determine each town’s contribution based on the two weighted factors of population and student count, each counting for 50 percent.

The Finance Committee also recommends adopting a 5 percent safety net that would ensure that no town’s contribution changes more than 5 percent from one year to the next, in either direction.

In five years, Wiscasset — RSU 12’s largest town and biggest contributor — would pay a much smaller share of the district’s budget: 31.7 percent, compared to 35.1 percent now.

Wiscasset’s role as the school district’s largest source of local funding is one reason some residents want to leave the district. A committee of residents is exploring the town’s options for doing so.

In response to requests from the board, the Finance Committee prepared two simulations: one based on the school district’s existing configuration and one excluding Wiscasset.

Wiscasset pays the most to the district, but its schools also cost the most to run.

If the school district adopts the new cost allocation formula, a seven-town district would cost less for everyone involved except Somerville, when compared to a district that continues to include Wiscasset.

Nault said that the public hearings will begin with a presentation about the Finance Committee’s recommended changes. In addition to asking questions about the proposal, people who attend will be invited to suggest alternative factors to include in the cost-sharing formula.

Materials outlining the proposed changes were not available online as of Friday afternoon, but Nault said he would try to post them so residents can review the plan before attending a hearing. RSU 12’s website is www.svrsu.org.

Susan McMillan — 621-5645

[email protected]


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